Infamous Quran-burning pastor Terry Jones has hijacked the Christian voice and caused misunderstanding about the faith as well as the U.S. government among Muslims around the world, said a Florida imam who last year prevented Jones from burning the Islamic holy book.
Imam Muhammad Musri, president of the Islamic Society of Central Florida, said many overseas Muslims who saw the video of Jones putting the Quran on trial and then subsequently burning the book as punishment believe that it was done in a U.S. court and the U.S. government was behind the intentionally offensive act.
Jones, in the video, had set up his church as a makeshift court with a judge, flag, a jury box, a prosecutor, and defense stand. During the March 20 mock trial, the Quran was found “guilty of causing murder, rape and terrorism” and was burned as punishment. Jones maintained that a separate jury delivered the guilty verdict.
“So in their view the U.S. government carried on this trial,” explained Musri in an Odyssey Networks video posted Wednesday. “So the Terry Joneses of the world are hijacking the Christian voice and the Muslim world is seeing the West from the point of view that these are the Christians, these are the Americans.”
Although there was little media coverage of the mock trial in the United States, a video of the trial posted online made its way to predominantly Muslim nations, including Afghanistan. Afghan President Hamid Karzai denounced the burning of the Quran and called on the U.S. government to prosecute those responsible for the action.
Days after Karzai’s remark, hundreds of angry protesters stormed a United Nations building in Afghanistan and attacked security guards and workers. The April 1 attack on the U.N. base in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif left at least 22 people dead.
Musri, in the Odyssey video, also denounced Muslim extremists.
“At the same time, extremist Muslims, like the Taliban or Bin Laden [or] al Qaeda, are hijacking the Muslim voice,” said the Muslim leader known for having strong interfaith ties. “And the West is seeing Islam through those voices."
“So the extremists make the most noise on both sides, and the vast majority of peaceful people in the middle have no voice,” he said. “You don’t hear the voice of major Christian leaders in this country. You don’t hear the message of major Muslim leaders who are for peace and for interfaith and co-existence.”
The Florida imam was part of the effort to stop Jones from his first attempt at burning the Quran at his church, Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Fla., last September for “International Burn a Quran Day.” Musri had reached out to Jones and offered to connect him to Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf of the so-called Ground Zero mosque. Jones had wanted to negotiate not burning the Quran in exchange for moving the proposed mosque in downtown Manhattan farther away from Ground Zero, where thousands died in the 2001 terrorist attacks.
The deal and discussion never materialized. After much pressure from the evangelical community as well as from the U.S. government, Jones relented last year and vowed he would not burn the Quran then or ever. But he went back on his word and burned the Quran on March 20, causing violent and deadly protests in Afghanistan.
“The media has made the choice for a long time now to cover the noise [by extremists] and to ignore the mainstream,” said Musri.
Odyssey Networks is a service of the National Interfaith Cable Coalition, Inc. Established in 1987, Odyssey represents 80 denominations, organizations and individual members from Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Bahai, Skih, and Hinduism.